What was the writing style of the author in A Raisin in the Sun?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to writing very realistic dialogue, Lorraine Hansberry provides stage directions that give not only a sense of the physical setting in which the action of the play unfolds, but also give insight into the psychological makeup of the characters. For example, she writes about Ruth:

RUTH is about thirty. We can see that she was a pretty girl, even exceptionally so, but now it is apparent that life has been little that she expected, and disappointment has already begun to hang in her face. In a few years, before thirty-five even, she will be known among her people as a "settled woman."

Hansberry's directions provide the reader with a sense of the psychological composition of her characters, so they can understand how, for example, Ruth feels and what her life is like even before the drama of the play begins. 

Even when Hansberry describes the physical setting of the play, it is with a sense that the room has a psyche of its own. She writes at the beginning of the play:

And here a table or a chair has been moved to disguise the worn places in the carpet; but the carpet has fought back by showing its weariness, with depressing uniformity, elsewhere on its surface. Weariness has, in fact, won in this room.

In her description, the parts of the room are personified, as they act like animate characters. Weariness is the most prominent feature of the room, and it too is personified. It's clear from the outset that the playwright will convey the innermost thoughts and feelings of her characters and that their apartment has a very strong psychological effect on them. The characters and the setting have well-developed personalities from the outset of the play.

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because A Raisin in the Sun is a live play, Lorrainne Hansberry uses multiple writing styles, depending on her characters and settings.  Overall, she uses oral/aural rhetorical conventions to appeals to her actors' voices and her audiences' ears.  She blends everyday speech with elevated language to show both the frustration and pathos of urban civil rights era daily life.

Mama's style is full of symbolism as she references her domestic life (the plant is a major symbol here).  She also makes allusions to Booker T. Washington and the Bible.  Most interestingly, she speaks to herself a lot, almost as if her dead husband is still there.  Even though she is uneducated, her speech is filled with reflection and wisdom.  Ruth's style is also filled with domestic references, although she is much less reflective.

Walter's style is more direct and macho.  He is more concerned with his own wants (to own his own liquor store) and less about the memory of his father or his wife's pregnancy.  For most of the play, his speech is that of a whining child; then, he finally finds his voice when he proudly takes a stand against Mr. Linder.

Beneatha's style is more outspoken, because she is the only one who has gone to college.  She represents the burgeoning feminist and Black Nationalist rhetoric of the civil rights era, even singing and dancing wildly.  In the end, though, her style is mostly a mouthpiece for the movements that she idealizes and not for the actions she takes.

Taken together, Hansberry achieves an ensemble of diverse voices and styles, deftly blending them to comment on Civil Rights, the American dream, and gender roles within a family.

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A Raisin in the Sun

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